Back pain after tennis
September 10, 2007 10:42 AM   Subscribe

I hurt my lower back playing tennis. Help!

So yesterday I was playing tennis, the second time in the last couple of weeks after a long layoff. I was at the end of my warm ups and ran up to try to scoop up a short shot. During this maneuver I awkwardly twisted my torso and immediately felt pain in my lower back. The pain is really low on my back and includes the top of my posterior. I took 5 minutes and felt that I could continue on playing for the next couple of hours.

I've had back issues before, but never in this specific spot. I went home and popped some Advil and iced it for several hours. Today it just aches and especially hurts when I bend over or squat down.

I have a match tomorrow. I'm sure I could play with this pain, but could it cause more damage? Should I go to the doctor with this? More importantly, how can I prevent this in the future? What exercises and stretches should I be doing? I'm 27 years old and have hurt my back probably 4 different times over the last 4 years. I'm moderately active, running and a whole lot of walking being my other activities.
posted by corpse to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
After just walking around, most of the pain is beneath my waist, just creeping up my back.
posted by corpse at 10:46 AM on September 10, 2007

You might want to go see a chiropractor. Usually doctors will give you pain meds and tell you to take it easy (at least, that has been my experience). A chiropractor would also be able to give you more information about your injury and how to avoid it in the future. I'm not sure why you'd want to take a chance at aggravating a back injury (and turning it into a chronic problem) by playing more tennis right after your injury.
posted by Kimberly at 10:50 AM on September 10, 2007

Yes you could cause more damage. Yes you should go to the doctor. Your doctor should tell you how to prevent this in the future and what exercises you should be doing, because the back is a delicate thing and everyone's is different.

I know some people will jump in here with "when I hurt MY back" advice, and some of it may be relevant and useful. However - you need to see a doctor and take his/her advice, possibly find yourself a back / sports medicine specialist.
posted by twiggy at 10:51 AM on September 10, 2007

Also, the decision is up to you regarding Kimberly's advice of seeing a chiropractor, but many people feel that chiropractic practice is not scientifically based / backed, and is akin to seeing a psychic. You should probably read up on it yourself and make your own decision.
posted by twiggy at 10:52 AM on September 10, 2007

yeah, a very good chiropractor can fix that. just go the very best one you can find, a quack can seriously fuck your shit up.

suggestion: try to locate one that works with pro athletes: it'll be expensive but it's usually a guarantee that people don't become quadriplegics after his or her treatments
posted by matteo at 11:04 AM on September 10, 2007

Check out shiatsu- I go to a guy who used to work on the Japanese olympic team. It's gentle and very effective.

I really wouldn't strain myself tomorrow. Hope you feel better soon.
posted by solongxenon at 11:14 AM on September 10, 2007

Well firstly, echoing everyone here, go see a doctor. I'm one of those who's highly skeptical of chiropractors, but if it works for you, go ahead.

I've a bit of history of lower back problem. I got a herniated disc at my L5 some years back and I still "tweak" my back once in a while. It really sounds like you just "tweaked" it (basically got in such a position that it pinched the nerves slightly). It can take several days for your back to recover from that and I certainly wouldnt recommend too much exertion during that time. You really, really dont want to make it worse. An injured disc is indescribably painful. My back injury remains the bar by which I define true pain. You dont want that.

Rest up, and good luck.
posted by elendil71 at 11:21 AM on September 10, 2007

I went to a chiropractor for two sessions the last time I tweaked my back. Both times I was on the verge of vomiting when done. I tensed up so much that I was afraid that I was going to be seriously injured. I'm not the type of person that can take someone cracking me every which way.

Last time my doc gave me muscle relaxers. I had some of those left over today, but they don't seem to have had much affect.

I've pretty much decided I'm not going to play tomorrow. This is so frustrating.
posted by corpse at 12:16 PM on September 10, 2007

for now, max dose of ibuprophen and frequent applications of cold. Take it easy but try to maximize your mobility.

I would play your match. You are injured, the injury is inflamed, making yourself more prone to additional injury. Give your self a chance to heal.
posted by Good Brain at 12:25 PM on September 10, 2007

sorry: i would not play your match
posted by Good Brain at 12:33 PM on September 10, 2007

I agree with Good Brain. Don't play.

I've had lower back pain and you don't want to make it worse. You should find out what's going on down there. Instead of going to a chiro I went to an orthopedic doctor who, after taking an xray, sent me to a physical therapist. It's been great for me But that may not be your path. Knowing what's really going on would be a good step before you try to treat it (via chiropractic or otherwise), especially since it's happened before.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 1:25 PM on September 10, 2007

Sounds like you've sprained a vertebrae and you should rest it for at least a week. Don't play tennis tomorrow, you may inflame the sprain and spend a few days in agony. I did that earlier this year so please learn from my mistake.

When you have recovered you should investigate some basic yoga moves for flexibility and if you go to a gym regularly you should have a go on the roman chair with some back extensions. You might also investigate some specific exercises that you can do with a swiss ball.
posted by Tixylix at 5:08 PM on September 10, 2007

I would strongly recommend looking into weight training once you've healed up a bit. Back injuries seem to be very difficult to treat medically, according to what I've read. I had a long period of recurrent lower back pain until I kicked my weight training up a notch, specifically by adding a lot of core strengthening exercises (for me, overhead squats, L-hangs, incline bench situps). I would bet money that really hitting your abs and stabilizers (I'm taking heavy weights, not just yoga) would help you keep this from happening again.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:37 PM on September 10, 2007

Before Chiropracting you need to GET AN IMAGE (preferably a simple back x-ray) and make sure it does not warrant some higher level of imaging. THEN, I would say lay off the back for about 4-6 wk WHILE GOING to physical therapy from someone your primary or orthopedist recommends.

Once better, yes, you need to do "core strengthening" exercises.

Good luck.
posted by narebuc at 4:32 PM on September 11, 2007

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